World Bee Day is May 20th – its significance and how you can help the bees
If you have not heard about the challenges facing bees and other pollinator insects, you must be living under a rock. Intensive use of land by the fast expanding human population, how we farm or even look after our garden has placed significant pressure on the bee population. That is why some clever people created World Bee Day. It is a good idea to set aside one day, to reflect on bees, and the day is 20th of May every year.
So, what are the things you can do on World Bee Day to remember and take action that can help these lovely creatures?
Create awareness by sending a FREE World Bee Day eCard
Some of the human activities that are negatively impacting the bees are born of ignorance rather than deliberate lack of care for the bees. So, why not send a FREE Happy Bee Day eCard to your friends and family, to help raise awareness about bees. Charity eCard website, Hope Spring is offering free save the bees eCards on their website. Just visit the free ecards section of their website, use the provided token to send a free Happy Bee Day eCard.
Improve your knowledge of the challenges facing the bees
Bees are beset by the same environmental challenges as other species, including habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation; non-native species and diseases; pollution, including pesticides; and climate change.
Here in the UK, Changes in land use, including insensitive urban development and intensive farming, have caused great losses and fragmentation of pollinator-friendly habitats. This leads to bees losing the diverse and nutritional food sources required for their healthy diet.
It’s important that bees have enough flowers to forage – and safe places to use for nesting, among vegetation, the soil and hedges. But since World War II, we have lost about 98% of our wildflower meadows, leaving the bees with little natural habitat.
Climate change is also having an impact. The shift in temperatures and seasons affects when insects are active and when food is available, which may no longer coincide. New pests and diseases can also strike as the climate changes, devastating bee colonies which have little or no resistance. Bees feel the effects of climate change more greatly than those of habitat disturbance. A recent research found that the abundance and diversity of bee populations are heavily determined by weather conditions. During the study, higher temperatures and more intense rainfall during Winter and Spring months were associated with a lower abundance of wild bees. It is undeniable that climate change poses a huge threat to the wild bee population, and hence our global food supply.
The use of pesticides has also been identified as one of the causes of decline in bee population.
A study by Dr Richard Gill of Imperial College London, shows how factors associated with land use change affects pollinating insects. He says, ‘They target what are known as nicotinic acetylcholinesterase receptors. These are similar receptors to those that nicotine binds to in humans.’
‘Effectively, this information instructs the insect on how to move, think and learn. Normally, a second molecule will then come and break down the substance that is stimulating the nerve.’
With neonicotinoids, however, this is where the problems arise. The molecule of neonicotinoid has high affinity to the receptor, meaning that it is very difficult to break down.
‘Basically, it causes the insects to become hyperactive. Excess stimulation and the insect has a seizure, a bit like an epileptic fit,’ says Richard.
Save the bees
About two-thirds of the crop plants that feed the world rely on pollination by insects or other animals to produce healthy fruits and seeds for human consumption. Pollination benefits human nutrition – enabling not only the production of an abundance of fruits, nuts and seeds, but also more variety and better quality.
Below are some of the things you and I can do to help curb the alarming decline in bee population:
- Plant native wildflowers
- Keep part or all of your garden untidy, to make more room for wildlife
- Adopt a beehive
- Support smaller, local, organic farms
- Create awareness by sending bee ecards to your friends and colleagues
- Support current bills and other pollinator initiatives